A Journey to the Mohot Rapids to put the Livewire Digital Kit Through its Paces Turns into a Real Adventure
By Martin Holland, Expedition Leader and Head of Multimedia
Filmed and Edited by Martin Holland
We have been blessed with the level of support we have received for this expedition. In particular, our thanks go out to the team at Livewire Digital for not only loaning us some top of the range satellite communications equipment, but for providing us with their amazing Newscaster software, and incredible technical support.
We wanted to really show off this kit, and test what it was capable of. We are very remote at Camp Foyle, but could be forgiven for forgetting that fact as we happily send and receive emails, take part in live links, and upload videos at breakneck speed for little cost.
But how would all this kit fair when it was taken away from Camp Foyle and into the field?
Audacious Boat Handling
Dan and I decided to head up to a set to rapids that Tim and I had been to during our recce of this area. We set out in our boat, the Halpin Flyer, with head Guide Aspor and our boatman, Parman.
As the video shows, Parman and Aspor managed to navigate four sets of rapids. The first was impressive enough, but we thought the second set was completely impassable. We were incredulous when we heard the engine roaring into life while we were looking for somewhere to film, before seeing the boat round a rock the size of a bungalow and power over the churning water.
Complications of a Cameraman
At the third set, Parman and Aspor spent about ten minutes sizing up the task of getting the boat over a 5ft drop of water after I asked them if they could do it. As soon as we saw Aspor light a cigarette and strip down to his shorts, we knew they were game.
I took up a position on a rock at the edge of the rapids to film their attempt. Aspor kept waving at me, but I couldn’t hear him and thought he was worried I would slip in. I had a good footing so told him not to worry. It was only once they started aiming the boat at the rock that I realised he was telling me to get out of the way!
Before I could move, Parman jumped out of the boat and onto the rock, scurried over me and around it to help drag the boat through the water, and then jumped back into the boat just as the engine broke through the current and took off upriver at full speed!
Thinking back, it’s interesting that our guides seem to have a much greater patience for the complications a cameraman sometimes creates in the pursuit of his job, and a deeper understanding of what he might be looking for in terms of content, than any of our fully digitalised team members!
An Imminent Downpour
The next set of rapids was a doddle compared with that, and we managed to get about an hour away from the navigable end of the Mohot before we had to stop in time to get back before nightfall.
What you won’t see in the film is me desperately hurrying Dan to get the get his last piece to camera done because a large black cloud which had been gathering over the Muller/Schwarner mountains in the distance had just started spitting down rain and was about to dump on us.
Calm under pressure, Dan ignored my frantic signalling from behind the camera and got through his piece first time with only a few more ‘errs’ than normal. We were packed up in seconds, such is the simplicity of the Livewire Digital kit, and less than a minute later we were as drenched as though we’d been swimming in the river by the heaviest downpour we’ve had so far.
The journey back was amazing: a two hour rollercoaster in our little boat, back over the rapids with us in the boat this time, through an endless wall of water falling from the sky which made the river boil. The visibility was reduced to about 10 metres, like driving through heavy rain without windscreen wipers, and the downpour stung our eyes making it difficult to see anything at all.
My respect for these two men, Aspor and Parman, with their skill, strength and modesty, has been raised even higher. The same goes for the support provided by Livewire Digital: it took us around 2 minutes to set up the kit and get a signal strong enough to send data back to the UK at speeds which would match first generation broadband.
The Newscaster software compresses video to a fraction of its size in minutes, so we were able to send back the video we’d filmed and edited, again in minutes, at a very reasonable cost.
It was a great adventure for Dan and I, and one which reinforced in us both the already strong feeling that this area needs to be protected. Despite our remoteness, we are just scratching the edge of this huge, beautiful, and so far hidden rainforest. It will be a tragedy if it is lost simply for the sake of coal, minerals, or garden furniture, however important these things may be.